Why you should not confuse ‘personalisation’ with ‘personal’


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There is value in personalisation

By personalising content on websites you provide me with content that is likely to be relevent to me. And that saves me time. It tends to make me think that you have your act together. That you are competent and possibly sophisticated in your use of data and technology. Because of your personalisation, you make it that much more likely that I will purchase from you.

When you send me direct mail then it may or may not be personalised. Simply putting my name on it does not constitute personalisation. Doing that and taking my situation and/or my past behaviour into account when you talk to me in your direct mail does constitute personalisation. And by personalising your direct mail to me it is that much more likely that I am going to read it. Whether I act on it or not depends largely on your timing – did your personalised direct mail catch me when I have the need for what you are offering?

Why personalisation is not enough

The big issues with personalisation as it is practiced is that it addresses the rational / functional needs. I’d argue that the kind of personalisation that I have described is a hygiene factor. The thing about hygiene factors is that if they are present they do not build positive emotion, engagement or loyalty. When hygiene factors are not present then they do build dissatisfaction.

Why the personal touch matters

Customers are people – human beings. For most human beings there is nothing more nourishing than the personal touch. The personal touch is always a human to human encounter. It is one human being taking the time to acknowledge, validate and uplift another human being emotionally. I can talk about this in many ways and sometimes an example is much more direct and useful. Please take a look at the image below.

I have an inquisitive mind and I read widely. As a result I tend to buy quite a few books from Amazon and it’s partners. Most of the time the books arrive and there is absolutely no emotional impact. This time I am really touched. Why? Simply because of one personal sentence written by a fellow human being who works at RocketSurgery:

“Thanks for your order, hope you enjoy this excellent book and find it useful. Best wishes. RocketSurgery Crew”

Now the interesting thing is that this sentence would not have had the same impact if it had been typed up. It occurs as personal because it is handwritten and it lands as authentic – as heartfelt.

The net impact of this personal touch is that RocketSurgery is imprinted on my mind (and heart) and next time I am choosing between ANother or RocketSurgery, I know who will get my business.

Research validates the impact of the personal touch

I am not alone in being moved (influenced) by the personal touch. The impact of the personal is described in the following book: “Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion”

You can download an extract of the book and relevant secret (secret 10) by clicking on the following: Yes_Book_Extract

So what is the lesson we can take away from this?

Personalisation is necessary because it delivers on the functional (hygiene) need. Yet it is not enough to build an emotional connection with your customers and grow loyalty. To do that you have to be personal: leaving your customer feeling acknowledged and valued at an emotional level.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. The article does not seem to me logically coherent one. He wants to convey that customers are human beings and they have to be treated as human being rather than customers only. I agree with him to the extent of necessity of personalization but I do not think it is possible to send handwritten message to every customer. However, business is all about relation. So, to do business well relation with your customer must be well, in whatever way you can.
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